Resilience and the Road to Recovery

How an indoor soccer injury taught me valuable lessons in life and love

When I was a 20-year-old uni student, summer break was the perfect opportunity to catch up on life outside of lectures, readings and cramming for exams.

Life was pretty sweet as I happily juggled time for family and friends, part-time work as a waitress and hobbies such as swimming, dance classes and playing social futsal on weekends.

Who doesn’t enjoy the four-month uni break each year?

Deep down, I felt invincible, like this was the best time in my life. Nothing could possibly go wrong and things just couldn’t get any better! Or so I thought…

One Sunday morning during any normal social indoor soccer game, the unthinkable happened. As a defender, I remember bolting after a friend who had possession of the ball. After one sudden dash and an awkward side step, I heard a loud ‘pop’ and immediately fell to the ground. In terrible pain, I saw the extent of what had happened – I had dislocated my right knee.

The game stopped, my older brother and sister anxiously ran to my side and my friends stood distressed to witness such a horrific injury. In that moment, I felt that things were never going to be the same. I was immediately rushed to hospital for surgery.

Overall, I was in hospital just under two weeks and had three major knee reconstructive surgeries to fix the damage to my right knee. The most difficult news I had been given was that I was looking at an estimated rehabilitation period of up to 12 months.

The damage was so severe that my surgeon said he had never seen anything like it! He likened the injury to someone who had a horrific car crash. I had torn three major ligaments and spent the next four months having a cast over my right leg and hobbled around in crutches.

Life changed drastically after this. I deferred my uni studies. I stopped working and sadly my futsal days were well and truly over. My priority became my health and recovery, and working towards the next physio session or specialist appointment. What were the chances of this happening to me I thought?

SO… Despite the initial heartache, looking back, as unfortunate as my circumstances were, I can proudly share that there were precious life lessons that my soccer injury taught me that are worth so much more to me now that I’m older.

1) To live beautifully

For a long time I had thoughts of What if I had never decided to play that game? It is so easy to get caught up with feelings of What if? when in reality we have no control over changing the past.

To me, to living a beautiful life means pursuing passions and interests that are fulfilling and give you so much more meaning.

Indoor soccer was a huge love of mine at the time and although I never imagined my time playing would be short-lived, I don’t regret for a moment that I was able to pursue something I enjoyed. If I were to go back in time, I would happily play one last futsal game!

Of course I miss the feeling of playing with friends on weekends. But now there’s so much more that I appreciate because I’m away from the game. I’m blessed that I can still watch my siblings on the sidelines or sit in the stands to support my local football team.

I’d say my love for the game has grown all the more because of the injury.

I would strongly encourage everyone to get out there and to get active, no matter if you are new to a game or have been kicking goals since you were a kid, it’s important to be thankful for simple gifts that we’ve been given as you never know just how much you miss something until it’s no longer there.

2) To dream passionately

Mental strength, resilience and positivity are paramount when recovering from a sports injury. You don’t realise how resilient the human spirit can become when you choose to remain positive.

I had to work tirelessly each physio appointment on gaining my strength back, and there were huge goals that kept me focused and driven to put in the recovery time needed to get back to shape.

This was a wonderful reminder to dream passionately and to make sure that you never underestimate what motivates you to help you achieve things that are difficult to see during a challenging moment.

An ambitious goal of mine was to be off my crutches and walking by my birthday. I admit, there were difficult moments when I endured terrible days of pain, negative thoughts and desperately wanting to get back to my ‘normal life’.

Thankfully four months into my recovery (and two months shy of my 21st birthday), I was finally walking again and it was an incredible feeling!

One promise I made to myself was to be aware that I had a choice each day to be positive about what had happened to me. I always remind myself to live this out each day.

3) To love completely

The amount of unconditional love and support throughout my recovery was invaluable. I am thankful to this day that I am blessed with such devoted loved ones that were able to help me during my deepest darkest moments and challenging days.

A true test of love is truly loving someone through various obstacles and desiring the greatest good for them.

There were little acts of love that I am grateful for: my dad driving me to every physio and specialist appointment and talking me through every piece of advice or result from the physio or surgeon; friends and family giving up their time to help me as I often struggled walking in crutches; and the service of the doctors and nurses who were there from the start, supporting a young patient undergoing major surgery.

In essence, I had learnt the significance of persevering in the little things for love.

SO… Five years on, post-knee surgery and recovery time, I firmly believe that time is always a healer. I have scars on my right knee and plenty of metal work holding my ligaments together to remind me of the journey to get to where I am today, and one day I’ll be able to proudly share this precious story with my own children.

To live beautifully, to dream passionately and to love completely remain important lessons in my life that I owe to playing a simple futsal game.

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